On February 19, the Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued new proposed rules to revise the export controls on fire control, laser, imaging, and guidance and control equipment. These new proposals are part of the Administration’s Export Control Reform Initiative and incorporate many comments and concerns raised by industry following the first round of proposed rules issued on May 5, 2015.

Category XII of the International Traffic in Arms Regulation’s (ITAR) U.S. Munitions List currently controls a broad basket category of fire control, range finder, optical, and guidance and control equipment. DDTC’s May 2015 proposed rule would have created a more positive list of controlled items, but these proposed controls also would have inadvertently captured some items in normal commercial and civil applications. The new proposal includes more detailed breakouts of controlled items, many of which contain the specific technical parameters that the U.S. government views as critical military or intelligence capability. For example, DDTC revised the control language for military laser range finders to specify that ITAR controls would apply to laser range finders operating at a wavelength of 1064 nm and having a Q-switched pulse output and laser range finders operating in excess of 1064 nm and meeting certain technical parameters.

Although DDTC’s proposed rule adds a number of technical parameters, Category XII would control certain items based solely on design intent. In this connection, light detection and ranging (LIDAR), laser detection and ranging (LADAR), and range-gated systems; along with binoculars, bioculars, monoculars, goggles, and head or helmet-mounted imaging systems having an infrared focal plane array or imaging camera; would be controlled by the ITAR only if they are specially designed for a “military end user,” such as the armed services, national guard, national police, or government intelligence or reconnaissance organizations.

BIS’s companion proposed rule would make several changes to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to add controls on the items that will shift from ITAR control. Among the changes from its original proposed rule, BIS now plans to add only one (rather than two) new “600 series” Export Control Classification Number, 7×611, to cover non-ITAR-controlled military fire control, laser, imaging, and guidance and control items. Additionally, BIS would remove the special controls in the EAR on certain QRS-11 sensors to ease burdens on U.S. exporters.

Industry members are encouraged to submit comments on the proposed rules, particularly to alert the agencies to any items remaining in the rules that are in normal commercial use. Comments for each proposed rule are due by April 4, 2016.